I’ve been talking about New Mexico’s implementation of the Common Core with lots of folks recently, and have heard some stories that stun even me into (momentary) silence.
One was about a Texas-based consultant brought in to provide professional development related to the CC. Sounds reasonable (although there are plenty of experts on education within the state) except when you consider this fact: Texas isn’t implementing the Common Core Standards. Hmmm. Why on earth would someone hire a consultant to talk about something that she’s not actually doing? Knowing about standards is NOT the same thing as having experience implementing them. What’s that saying about how to get ahead in business? It’s not what you know but who you know… So out-of-state experts rank higher than people with experience identifying and meeting the educational needs of New Mexico’s students. I don’t know why I’m so surprised.
The other story does not surprise me, but makes me mad enough to scream. Apparently, one of the reasons New Mexico rushed to embrace national standards was to qualify for a coveted NCLB waiver from the US Department of Education (and that, in that rush, forgot to consider exactly how we might implement those standards). That was after New Mexico was the only state which was denied a waiver, which allows flexibility in relation to the requirements of NCLB. Here’s how the USDOE describes their invitation to states:
The U.S. Department of Education is inviting each State educational agency (SEA) to request flexibility on behalf of itself, its local educational agencies, and schools, in order to better focus on improving student learning and increasing the quality of instruction. This voluntary opportunity will provide educators and State and local leaders with flexibility regarding specific requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive State-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.
Providing flexibility to schools, districts, and states to support efforts to identify and address students’ needs? How could that not be a good thing? (HINT: look at that paragraph above again and pay particular attention the sentence which describes the
deal-with-the-devil “exchange” required of states granted a waiver.) According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the waiver places New Mexico among the leaders of education reform.
“Today, New Mexico joins the ranks of states leading the charge on education reform by protecting children, raising standards and holding themselves accountable,” Duncan said. “As New Mexico implements these reforms, it is important that all stakeholders are at the table and their voices are heard. We encourage the governor and her team to work closely and in a bipartisan manner with the legislature, and to fully include educators, community, and tribal leaders and parents in the process of advancing these reforms. … New Mexico will move to an accountability system that “recognizes and rewards high-performing schools and those that are making significant gains, while targeting rigorous and comprehensive interventions for the lowest-performing schools,” the Department of Education said.
Last night in class, our topic was reading comprehension (specifically, ways to support students’ comprehension of content-area texts). One of the strategies we discussed was creating a found poem from an informational text. In order to create a found poem, students need to have a deep understanding of the text in question, be able to select meaningful words and phrases that convey the essence of the text, and create something new. (These steps, by the way, move students progressively UP Bloom’s Taxonomy, from understanding to creating.) If I were going to write a found poem based on the quotes above, here are the words I’d list as most meaningful (to the authors of the text, not necessarily to me!):
- improving student learning
- educational outcomes
- quality of instruction
- protecting children
- significant gains
What found poem would you write with that list? What words (and therefore concepts) are missing from this list?
Here are a few I would add (were I invited into the conversation about how best to identify and meet the needs of New Mexico’s students, which I think is unlikely; see “not what you know…” above):
- authentic assessment
- socioeconomic status
- formative assessment
- culturally responsive instruction
- assessment-based instructional decision-making
- on-going, formative assessment
- culturally and linguistically relevant materials
- validity of assessment
Once again, I find myself disheartened at the absolute lack of foresight and complete abdication of responsibility. In order to secure a waiver from the federal government, education policymakers in New Mexico agreed to
sacrifice student learning and long-term academic success implement national standards. Rather than using widely accepted (and time-tested) principles of curriculum design, New Mexico has put the proverbial cart before the horse. It’s as sure a way to guarantee failure as any I can imagine. Why is this regressive approach to “reform” so bad? Because despite the fact that, during the most recent Legislative session, the New Mexico Legislature rejected Governor Martinez’ proposal to tie teacher evaluations to students’ test scores, teachers’ evaluations will be tied to students’ test scores beginning in 2013 (according to today’s Albuquerque Journal).
Again, I ask: who will benefit from New Mexico’s headlong plunge into an approach to so-called reform which is almost guaranteed to fail?
By the way: I’m not just sitting back and criticizing. I’ve begun a new venture dedicated to supporting teachers as they implement the Common Core Standards in meaningful and effective ways to model and scaffold authentic student learning. It’s a work in progress, but you can find more information about it here.